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Palliser Estate is one of the New Zealand wines estates that was at the forefront of the New Zealand wine invasion into the UK in the 1990s. The estate is located in the wine-growing region of Martinborough in the South Wairarapa, the southernmost wine growing region of the North Island. Martinborough Sauvignon Blanc is not as famous as Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc but there are a number of fine wines from this region that are arguably better (and better value) than many of those in Marlborough. Martinborough, however, is probably most famous as a producer of Pinot Noir made famous by producers such as Ata Rangi, Craggy Range, Big Sky Wines, Murdoch James and Palliser Estate. Wineries here (only 2% of total NZ wine production) are typically small, family owned estates that focus on quality rather than quantity.
The geology of Martinborough owes its character to the Ruamahanga River which has carved out cliffs and escarpments over 20,000 years to produce mineral-laden, stony sub-soils whilst distributing silty river loam across the landscape. Martinborough is a cool climate wine-growing region with long, hot, dry summers, warm autumns, cool nights and crisp, frosty winters. This heats and cools the stony subsoil and helps to create free-draining gravels in an area that that has low rainfall anyway. The region also has cooling winds and low humidity which helps to keep levels of disease low. This combination of geology and climate means that vines tend to be low-yielding and the long ripening season, warm days and cool nights help to bring out the complexity and aromatics in the wines. Read more about Martinborough at the Wines from Martinborough Website.
Palliser Estate is actually located in the small village of Martinborough and is named after the local geographical landmark of Cape Palliser which was, in turn, named after a British Naval Officer by Captain James Cook. The first grapes were planted at Palliser Estate in 1984 with the first commercial wines were released in 1989 and first exports in 1991.
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Today, the estate comprises some 92 hectares (around 228 acres) of vineyards planted with mainly Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc along with some Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris. The Palliser Estate range of wines consists of single varietal bottlings of the grape varieties mentioned above as well as a Palliser Estate Methode Traditionelle (a sparkling Pinot Noir and Chardonnay blend). All of the individual vineyards – Palliser, Pencarrow, Om Santi and Clouston – are situated on the most desirable part of Martinborough, the Martinborough Terrace is a strip of land which is about 1km by 5km, In 1991 it was named “The Martinborough Terrace Appellation” to distinguish it from other local areas in the region. Palliser Estate own 90% of their own vineyards and invest heavily in viticulture and spends almost twice as much as other producer ensuring that grapes are given full exposure to the sun and can ripen perfectly. Palliser Estate have been rewarded with many domestic and international wine awards and much their success can be attributed to Chief Winemaker and Viticulturist Allan Johnson. Johnson joined the company in 1991 and his dual role allows him great control all aspects of wine production at the estate. He was named as New Zealand Winemaker of the year in 2002. There is also a second label called Pencarrow which is a range of wines made with some bought in fruit. The Pencarrow Sauvignon Blanc well worth seeking out as an alternative to Palliser Estate Sauvignon Blanc.
Sustainability at Palliser Estate
Palliser Estate is very serious about sustainable wine-making and, in 1998, was the first winery in the world to be awarded ISO 14001-2004 Certification, which is effectively means they adhere to a substainable environmental management system. Over a number of years the estate has lowered carbon emissions, water and electricity usage by a significant amounts. Diesel consumption is minimised by the use of sheep as natural mowers and leaf pluckers, the winery’s waste water is re-used for irrigation, all wines are packaged in reusable packaging and use of sprays is kept to an absolute minimum. Palliser is also the first CEMARS (Certified Emissions Measurement And Reduction Scheme) certified winery on the world, awarded this status in 2009 for measuring and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Visit the Palliser Estate Website for more information.